“Pregnancy in the Land of Corona!” -with Emily Oster

Dr. Emily Oster, an economist and expert in pregnancy who has authored data-driven parenting books including Expecting Better and Cribsheet, meets virtually with Dr. Fox to discuss what parents can expect in regards to the COVID-19 virus. How are the virus and social distancing impacting pregnancy, delivery, and young children? Learn more about the rapidly developing situation.

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Dr. Emily Oster, an economist and professor at Brown University, discusses interpreting COVID-19 data with Dr. Fox. Dr. Oster’s career includes, among other subjects, examining data to interpret decisions and best practices during pregnancy and in early parenting. She explains that there are many challenges to interpreting and understanding the available data around the corona virus. One problem is the “enormous difference” in the virus’ growth depending on how many people an individual may infect, which can vary depending on stay-at-home orders among other factors. For this reason, projections are difficult. It is also difficult to understand how and why different states and communities will be effected in varying degrees.  

Dr. Oster explains that currently, one of the most important datapoints to understand is the number of hospitalizations that will be required compared to the number of hospital beds and resources that are available, which is easier to determine than, for example, total number of corona virus cases overall. She also notes that the main piece of missing data currently is “what share of people in the overall population have or have had the corona virus,” which is largely due to the lack of available tests.  

For pregnant women, the most common questions Dr. Oster is asked recently are whether they should leave New York and whether they should have a home birth. Both Dr. Oster and Dr. Fox agree that if they are close to their due dates, neither of these is feasible. Residents of New York have been advised to shelter in place, and home births may not be a good idea without having the ability to plan far in advance, especially considering the increased risks of emergency situations and of bringing a midwife into your home.  

Both Dr. Oster and Dr. Fox also explain that the outcomes for pregnant women have seemed overall good with regards to the corona virus, as the infection rates do not seem higher for this group and the virus does not appear to be transferring to the fetus.  

Dr. Emily Oster is an economist and author of Cribsheet and Expecting Better, both best-selling books on pregnancy and parenting using data-based advice. In these books, Dr. Oster examines popular and common rules or techniques for pregnancy and early childhood to guide expecting and new parents to make informed decisions. Dr. Oster is currently a professor of economics at Brown University and was formerly a faculty member at the University of Chicago Booth School. She earned a PhD in Economics from Harvard and has studied subjects including health economics and statistical methods. Her previous academic work has included HIV in Africa and medieval witchcraft.